Smoking – a habit that remains one of the most controversial topics discussed in our society. According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey released in 2016-17, around 11% of Indians smoke regularly. Of the 22 countries surveyed as part of GATS between 2008-13, India ranked 18th . Between 2008-13, 313 million Indians were exposed to second-hand smoking in apartments.
The Smoke Battle : Ban It Or Allow It?
Let’s face a fact – we will meet smokers everywhere, especially in our gated communities. Smokers aren’t bad people. For majority, smoking is a quick indulgence to relieve stress. The home is where we relax, where we indulge in our personal pleasures. But what if it disturbs our neighbours? Passive smoking is after all a proven health hazard. As non smoking neighbours, is it really nice to take away someone’s relaxation? We are all familiar to the stress of modern life.
We at ADDA have come up with these out of the box ideas to promote co-existence among the smokers & non-smokers in a gated community.
- Smokers have simple demands. All they want is a place to sit, look at the vast horizon, smoke, contemplate on the meaning of life and a dedicated bin to throw their cigarette stubs and ashes in. Perhaps, the Association can designate an area in the higher levels, like the terrace as a smoking zone. Chances of smoke travelling downwards is negligible.
- Air sealing and modifications to ventilation can reduce the smoke, but they don’t eliminate smoke drifts from apartments where residents smoke indoors. You can try to alleviate the issue by purchasing filters with proper ratings for smoke. The filter will catch the smoke before it is recirculated into your entire living area.
- Have regular sessions with kids regarding the ill effects of passive smoking. This will encourage them to steer clear of smoking areas.
- Be supportive. Have a small reward system for residents who quit smoking. Maybe a badge or a few laptop stickers with appreciative phrases. All smokers acknowledge it’s a vice and secretly everyone’s trying to quit.
If you are feeling creative and want to take it up a level, you can even have a simple gamified Community Level Quit Smoking programme. Give points to residents trying to quit, tally their scores and maintain a monthly/yearly Hall of Fame.
- “My neighbour is a heavy smoker and that smoke sneaks in to my apartment. It’s disgusting.” – Very common situation. To resolve this, follow these steps :
Step 1 : Request politely. Suggest they close their windows while smoking and use an air freshener. (If they hotbox their flat in the process that’s their problem, not yours.)
Step 2 : Applicable if they shrugged your polite request. Gather a few supporters, inform the Association and let them deal with it officially.
Bonus Step : Only if you are feeling a bit mischievous. Best applied before Step 2. Repeat the polite request but this time with an air freshener gift wrapped.
- So you have done everything, but you still have that one rebel resident who just does not care. (Secret tip from the Smoker Team : they don’t like these rebel smokers much either – a threat to “the cause” of peaceful smoking!) Well, you do have the option of going legal and getting a permanent injunction against the smoker.
It is important to remember here that law recognizes smoking in public places as an offence, but it is allowed within the house. So, you might have a hard time getting someone to stop smoking in their apartments. While an individual has every right to use his private area to satisfy all their needs and pleasures, everyone must ensure they do not spoil the harmony of the community’s environment.
What does the law say about Smoking In Apartments?
We did the legwork for you and didn’t find any solid laws that prevent or prohibit people from smoking in apartments or residential society. You’ll find discussion forums and websites arguing both sides of the coin. In fact, you’ll find that this issue is quite the bone of contention between smokers and non-smokers. According to section 32 of The Indian Easements Act, 1882, the owner or occupier of the dominant heritage is allowed to enjoy the easement without disturbance by any other person. There are no laws that ban smoking inside the four walls of your private place or house. The house is a private property whether on ownership, leasehold or tenancy.
However, the lines get blurred the moment smoke/ashes crosses the four walls/boundary and enters public space causing problems to others.
In 2008, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare notified the Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places Rules, 2008 by which smoking in public places was prohibited. As per section 3 (I) of the COTPA, ‘public places’ are all those places to which the public has access to. In a gated community, those would be the walking/jogging tracks, clubhouse, gyms, swimming pool, banquet hall, play areas, lobbies, terraces, etc.
Ill Effects of Secondhand Smoking on Health
Studies measuring air-nicotine concentrations and particulate matter have shown that air pollution increases in homes and common areas located adjacent to areas where smoking occurs. This is because smoking inside apartments can easily be let out via gaps in door and window jambs, mechanical ventilation and air conditioning systems, elevator shafts, hallways, stairwells, cracks in walls, balconies and courtyards.
Secondhand smoke causes or exacerbates a range of serious health conditions in children and non-smoking adults. This includes cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and cancer. There’s an increased risk of developing heart diseases by 25% and stroke by 20% due to passive smoking. Pregnant women exposed to secondhand smoke have increased risk of congenital abnormalities, stillbirth, low-birth weight and respiratory illnesses in the baby. Children are likely to be affected as smoke infiltrates into parent’s hair, clothes, skin and in areas where children sleep, sit or play. Read more about ill-effects of secondhand smoking here.
So, tell us. What do you think? Should smoking inside flats be allowed?